A Nashville Tech Startup Acquisition Just Validated SaaS in the South


Today, Nashville got what we’ve been waiting for: the acquisition of a local tech startup.

Cell Journalist, a SaaS media platform, was just acquired by Canadian startup ScribbleLive. Cell Journalist is the leading social media platform provider serving television, radio stations and newspapers. They were founded in 2007 here in Nashville. ScribbleLive is a content media engagement platform, connecting people to media. 

How ScribbleLive Found Cell Journalist: 
One of the founders, Michael DeMonte, and Parker, connected late last year when Cell Journalist was seeking partnerships in the industry. As the conversation progressed they both realized that it made more sense for Cell Journalist to become a part of ScribbleLive to create a premium end-to-end engagement platform.
Value in Acquiring ScribbleLive:
Cell Journalist had a very complementary customer base and product suite, and they were a perfect cultural fit with ScribbleLive. 
Why did you go with an international acquisition rather than a local one? 
“We see the North American market as a single market.”

I asked CEO Vince Mifsud of ScribbleLive to talk about his experience with Cell Journalist and ScibbleLive. “Simply stated, love to see companies and people succeed. Expectations are high on myself and people around me always working towards doing better.” 

Vince emphasized the importance of taking the time to develop a great business model. “I do often advise start up CEOs. Generally, my advice is focused on getting the business model right.  It’s really hard to adjust if you have the wrong model. Starting and growing these businesses take a tremendous amount of work along with ability to handle multiple facets of a business. Make sure the advice you’re getting comes from self-made business people that have built businesses, I find that it’s most relevant.”

Vince encourages entrepreneurs to go with their gut. “My biggest failure probably amounts to not trusting my instinct and going more with what shareholders are looking for in terms of success which in general means trying to grow too fast.”
Lastly, I asked Vince how he got to where he was. “I think I simply work really hard. I very committed to anything I do.”
Brothers Colin and Parker Polidor who are both originally from Vermont, started Cell Journalist after attending college at Libscomb and Belmont Universities.
Cell Journalist was around before the tech entrepreneurial boom of Nashville. They were here before the EC and Jumpstart Foundry. They are about the same age as some of Nashville’s other popular SaaS companies (Like Moontoast and Emma). 

Previously the brothers started and sold a parking services company in Vermont/upstate New York. 

Clients range from local News Channels 2,4,5, to national news broadcasting like The Weather Channel. Cell Journalist is backed by ConduIT Corporation, a prominent technology investment company. The investment was a combination of local angels, friends and family and investors at ConduIT, but according to Parker, the company was considered bootstrapped. 

Cell Journalist is staying here in Nashville, growing the team over time. Part of the plan is to expand the team and explore new verticals. The name will change to ScribbleLive. 

Parker and Colin talked a great deal to me about Nashville’s landscape, raising capital, bootstrapping, making traction and getting acquired by an international company. They joked that they attended the “The school of hard knocks,” but that joke was tongue and cheek, since we know bootstrapping and/or raising capital in Nashville wasn’t easy seven years ago and certainly isn’t easy now.

Bottom line is that the companies that came out to play a risky game are finally seeing a reward. The acquisition of the first another tech startup here validates the SaaS model and will encourage the investment community to at least look at more SaaS companies. Hopefully this story is also encouraging for any tech startup working now to keep swinging for the fences. 

The Figures: 

  • Revenue 2013: 1.1million
  • Runrate over the year was 1.35 million 
  • There were five employees at the time of acquisition.

When I asked Parker about the matchup with ScribbleLive, he said “We are in line for the types of customers we go after. A lot of it is collaborative story telling.”

According to Parker and Colin, the content is up to the broadcasters and the user submissions. Cell Journalist simply provides the platform. They don’t have a ton of competitors, but Chute, FileMobile, and TagBoard all are in the same realm of  SaaS startups. 

Parker credited the success of Cell Journalist to the brother’s whole team.  “Colin and I navigate the media landscape. It was up to us and our team to make it successful.” 

This Nashville tech startup acquisition validates the return on investment Nashville is finally seeing for taking a risk in SaaS startups. Cell Journalist is the beginning of a domino effect in Nashville, and surely the start of a string of B2B, SaaS and consumer tech successes.


Author: Kelley Boothe

Kelley Boothe is the Cofounder and former CEO of Southern/alpha (acquired in December, 2014 by SouthComm in Nashville, TN).